Research Outline

Design Skills and Innovation


To provide an understanding of how governments are encouraging the adoption and application of design skills from both classical and emergent design fields in digital innovation. The research will focus on programmes with clear and measurable outcomes from the public and private sector as well as academia that are bridging the gap between digital business and designers in both major and emerging global innovation hubs.

Early Findings

Design Skills Programmes from Innovation Agencies

  • Innosuisse is the federal government entity in Switzerland with responsibility for fostering innovation in the country. Under Programme BRIDGE, the development of smart clothing to combat ulcers and an intelligent production chain for commercializing shoes are just two of the projects that have been funded related to design. However, for the period 2021 to 2024, the agency has targeted NTN Innovation Boosters for funding that incorporated design skills in additive manufacturing, adaptations in Microtech, sport and physical activity, technology and special needs, applied circular sustainability, and data boosters among others,
  • Vinnova is the Swedish Government Agency with responsibility for innovation ran a programme in innovations in universal design that focused on developing and testing solutions enhancing accessibility within cities and communities, environments, operations, and services.
  • Innovate UK is currently running a program wherein UK registers business can apply for a share of funding for projects to collaborate on market demonstrator projects related to the use and adoption of digital security by design technologies. This is funded by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). The ISCF is the flagship challenge led innovation programme in the UK that bring together research and business to tackle societal and industrial challenges.

Country Innovation Hubs

  • The Global Innovation Index (GII) for 2020 was developed by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization and its knowledge partners.
  • According to the GII the top ten innovation economies are Switzerland, Sweden, United States of America, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Singapore, Germany, and the Republic of Korea.
  • From a regional perspective, the top innovative economies in each region according to the GII 2020 are:
    • The United States of America and Canada in North America
    • Chile, Mexico, and Costa Rica in Latin America and the Caribbean (LATAM)
    • India, Iran and Kazakhstan in Central and Southern Asia
    • South Africa and Mauritius (tied for top in region), Kenya, and the United Republic of Tanzania in Sub-Saharan Africa
    • Israel, Cyprus, and United Arab Emirates in Northern Africa and Western Asia
    • Singapore, Republic of Korea and Hong Kong, China in South East Asia, East Asia, and Oceania
    • Switzerland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom in Europe
  • Based on income groups, the top three high income economies in the GII are Switzerland, Sweden and the United States of America. The top three upper middle-income economies are China, Malaysia, and Bulgaria, while the top three lower middle-income economies are Vietnam, Ukraine, and India. Finally, the top three low-income economies are the United Republic of Tanzania, Rwanda, and Nepal.

City Innovation Hubs

  • KPMG in its Technology Innovation Hubs report for 2020 listed Singapore, London, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, New York, Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul, Bengaluru, and Hong Kong as the top ten city innovation hubs outside of Silicon Valley.
  • Ranked between eleven and twenty are Austin (11th), Boston (12th), Chicago (13th), and Dallas (19th) in the United States, Berlin (13th) and Frankfurt (15th) in Germany, Mumbai in India (16th), Shenzhen in China (17th), Montreal in Canada (18th) and Taipei in Taiwan (20th).


  • During the initial hour of research, the research team focused on the identification of the top innovation hubs by country and by city. Once these were identified, the team sought to determine the presence of public sector innovation agencies, and thereafter programmes under these agencies that sought to bridge the gap between business and design with projects incorporating both traditional and emerging areas of design.
  • In identifying the innovation hub countries, emphasis was placed on providing information not just from the traditional top ten economies, but also on a regional and income basis to provide a level of differentiation in approaches to the incorporation of design skills into the development of innovation hubs resulting from a variety of geographical and socioeconomic factors.
  • We propose to continue the research by providing the following:
    • For the top ten countries (Switzerland, Sweden, United States of America, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Singapore, Germany, and the Republic of Korea) and the countries listed in the top three for each region, not included in the top ten (Canada, Chile, Mexico, Costa Rica, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Mauritius, Kenya, United Republic of Tanzania, Israel, Cyprus, and United Arab Emirates) we will provide a) the agency charged with fostering innovation in country, b) the type of organization that the innovation agency is, c) an overview of the government's role in the development/deployment of design/design skills in tech and digital innovation, d) in progress or completed projects that have been put into place incorporating funding amounts, success metrics and outcomes thus far, e) COVID-19 related pivots, and f) 3 key stakeholders of the agency.
    • We also propose to provide for the top ten innovation hub cities (Singapore, London, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, New York, Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul, Bengaluru, and Hong Kong) an overview of the development of the location as an innovation hub. The overview will provide a) the name of the agency responsible for innovation in the city, b) the factors that determine why the city is an innovation hub, c) 1 to 2 examples of programmes/projects that included design skills deployed in service of making the city an innovation hub, d) where available, key individuals involved in driving digital x design, and e) statistics supporting the growth of the city as an innovation hub.